Sustainable Futures: Knowledge Is Power Dialogue Seminar Session


Monday, March 26, 2012

This seminar will start with an overview of the ACA with emphasis on the implications for persons with disabilities especially persons with disabilities from ethnic/racial underserved populations. We will review health care changes brought about resulting from the ACA and how these provisions may positively impact the lives of persons with disabilities. As the ACA involves not only a national implementation but involvement of the states, we plan to address some of these issues from both a community based organization and a consumer perspective. Finally, we hope to engage participants in feedback, questions and answers.

About the Dialogue Leaders

All three presenters were members of the Rehabilitation Services Administration's 37th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues Prime Study Group on "Understanding the Impact of Health Care Reform on the Employment and Independence of Individuals with Disabilities.

Photo: Paul Leung PhD

Paul Leung, Ph.D. is currently Professor, Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work and Addictions, University of North Texas. Dr. Leung previously held academic/administrative appointments at Deakin University (Melbourne, Australia), the University of Illinois (Urbana), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Arizona. He has served as past President of Division 22 (Rehabilitation Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, the National Council on Rehabilitation Education and the National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns. A former editor of the Journal of Rehabilitation, his research interests have centered on persons with disabilities from diverse ethnic/racial groups and rehabilitation.


Photo: Gretchen Lawson


Gretchen Lawson has lived in Hawaii for the past 22 years. After working for seven years on Oahu in the non-profit community based sector, Gretchen moved to the big island in 1996 to assume the position of Executive Director (now President/CEO) for the Arc of Kona. Gretchen has worked with disadvantaged populations for the past twenty-seven years. Gretchen's educational background is varied with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, speech pathology/audiology and education. In addition to leading the organization that supports people with disabilities throughout the Island of Hawaii, Gretchen is active in many community activities.

Robert Scott Wall works as a consumer advocate in Hawaii. He is on the State Rehabilitation Council and on the committee writing the State health plan amendment to incorporate medical health home model. Scott is also the administrator (Oahu) of the new Consumer, Family, & Youth Alliance.


Background of the Affordable Care Act


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) consisting of Patient Protection and Affordability Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010 and is in the process of implementation. The ACA - designed to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance - is an important piece of legislation because it will significantly change the way America approaches health care in general including health care for people with disabilities. While not written specifically for persons with disabilities the ACA does have far reaching implications especially for persons with disabilities from often underserved racial/ethnic populations.

The ACA has been contentious and controversial at least part because of mandated individual purchase of health insurance with a challenge currently before the Supreme Court and a decision expected in 2012 but also because of misinformation about various provisions and the current deficit reduction climate. Part of the ACA has already been put on hold - the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) that was to be a voluntary long term support program – due to analysis concluding that CLASS was not economically feasible. Nevertheless, ACA is currently law and many sections of the ACA are in implementation. Many states have initiated dialogue related to Health Insurance Exchanges. A National Prevention Strategy has been devised and is being implemented. Some aspects of the ACA such as keeping children covered by their parents' insurance until they are 26 are already in place.

Many Americans still do not have equal access to health care treatment or equal access to health care benefits. Racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities and other underserved populations often have higher rates of diabetes; kidney disease; heart disease; high blood pressure; fewer treatment options; and reduced access to care. The ACA is an effort to change these disparities.

Under ACA, people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied insurance. Preventative care will be more readily available and more citizens will have access to health care on a broader scale with expanded options. Currently, it is virtually impossible for anyone with a severe disability or a pre-existing condition to become independent because of the high cost of medication, treatment, support services, etc. while trying to maintain employment. In many instances, private insurance will not cover all of the health issues a person with a disability might face in an effort to keep healthy and maintain employment. The ACA will eliminate exclusions because of disability or pre-existing conditions thus helping persons with disabilities to become employed and to be independent in their communities.